First cases of contagious avian flu confirmed in Mississauga

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Published April 4, 2023 at 12:03 pm

Cases of the contagious avian flu have been confirmed for the first time in birds in Mississauga, making it the latest Ontario municipality to record positive test results for the virus.

City of Mississauga officials revealed today (April 4) that avian influenza, also known as H5N1 and avian or bird flu, has been confirmed after suspected cases were investigated and test results came back positive.

Mississauga Animal Services and Peel Public Health are monitoring the situation and say they will provide more information as it becomes available.

Officials stress that the risk of transmission to people is low and that the virus does not typically pass from birds to humans. However, they add, it is high among wild or domestic birds like turkeys and chickens and in some cases pets such as birds, cats and dogs can contract the flu.

Last week, Brampton was the latest Ontario location to confirm the virus in less than a week.

“The avian flu is a contagious viral disease, which is fatal to wild birds and mammals,” Mississauga Animal Services manager Jay Smith said in a news release. “It can quickly devastate bird and wildlife populations, which can profoundly impact our environment and food chain. We’ve received multiple calls from residents reporting sick, dying or dead birds and are working closely with Peel Public Health and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to assess risks. With many birds migrating back to Ontario for the spring migration, our investigation and response will be ongoing.”

Officials say avian flu affects all types of birds like ducks, swans and geese, especially those that tend to stay in flocks or congregate together.

The viral disease affects many bird populations’ respiratory, digestive and nervous systems. It’s transmitted from bird to bird through secretions, feces, contaminated feed, water and equipment.

Last year, several cases of avian flu were found across Canada.

“Despite the low risk of humans contracting the flu, people should still be cautious and avoid going near or handling wild birds or other wildlife,” said Smith. “Other wildlife is also susceptible to the flu, so please remember to keep your distance. As a reminder, residents should see their health-care provider should they become ill with flu-like symptoms within 10 days after handling wild birds or other wildlife.”

Infected birds and wildlife may have flu-like symptoms including trouble breathing, sneezing, diarrhea, shaking, decreased energy, loss of appetite, blisters and in the case of turkeys and chickens purplish-blue coloured wattles (the fleshy growth hanging from the head or neck).

Federal and provincial measures are in place to protect domestic poultry and treat avian flu outbreaks in domestic poultry operations, officials note.

The flu virus can be active for a number of days, so the City is recommending precautions to help stop the spread of the flu:

  • Avoid handling sick, dying or dead birds/animals. If you must, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly
  • Do not feed or otherwise interact with the birds
  • Keep pets, like birds and cats indoors, where possible
  • When walking your dog, keep them on a leash to avoid interactions with other wildlife or contact with fecal waste
  • Stay away from bird droppings
  • Do not feed or otherwise interact with birds
  • Keep food and water bowls indoors
  • Clean bird feeders with bleach and water and remove them if you see dead birds
  • Keep birds away from pets
  • Do not bring any found/sick/injured/dead birds inside your home

Residents are asked to call 311 to report a sick or injured wild bird or animal, or the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781.

For more information about avian flu, visit the Ontario health ministry website.

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